School of Earth and Space Exploration Dean’s Medalist discovers her passion for research

December 8, 2021

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2021 graduates.

Megan McGroarty is the Fall 2021 Dean’s Medalist for the School of Earth and Space Exploration.  Smiling girl with ocean in background Megan McGroarty, School of Earth and Space Exploration fall 2021 Dean's Medalist, will graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in astrobiology and biogeosciences, a minor in German and a certificate in sustainable food systems. Download Full Image

She is also a Barrett, The Honors College student and will graduate from Arizona State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in astrobiology and biogeosciences, a minor in German and a certificate in sustainable food systems. 

McGroarty, a native of Pennsylvania, took full advantage of the interdisciplinary opportunities at ASU and worked as a docent in the School of Earth and Space Exploration. The docents at the school play a vital role in its operations, including providing guest services and tours of the Gallery of Scientific Exploration. During her time as a docent, McGroaty became an expert tour guide, hosting K–12 school groups, parents, alumni, VIPs and members of the public. 

Despite the challenges she faced with the COVID-19 pandemic and having to return home to Pennsylvania for most of 2020, McGroarty demonstrated great perseverance and initiative by adapting to a virtual environment. In her docent role, she learned to give engaging tours over Zoom and showed by example what it is like to be a successful student in the STEM environment. For her studies, she was both proactive and creative, getting the bulk of her thesis project completed remotely, despite not being able to be on campus.

Heather Throop, associate professor in both the School of Earth and Space Exploration and the School of Life Sciences, was McGroarty’s thesis adviser. She recalls meeting her in the Camp SESE program.

“She stood out because she asked enthusiastic questions about the research in my lab,” said Throop. “Then she followed up on this interest in her second semester when she asked to volunteer in the lab. It was quickly apparent that her keen enthusiasm and powerhouse intellect would be a great asset.” 

When McGroarty and Throop started discussing the possibility of her doing an honors thesis project in Throop's lab, McGroarty's enthusiasm for research solidified. 

“For her honors thesis, Megan collaborated to design, coordinate and implement a field experiment that is addressing critical questions about how carbon cycling in deserts will respond to climate change,'' said Throop. “It was a huge effort to create this distributed experiment with sites in all five deserts of the Western U.S., especially with the challenges of COVID. Megan’s hard work and enthusiasm kept this research moving forward.”

While McGroarty has always been interested in studying science, it was the support from the School of Earth and Space Exploration and experiences at ASU that helped her discover what she is passionate about in research. She credits Throop with some of those lessons. 

“Professor Throop taught me how to think independently and navigate on my own,” said McGroarty, “which is a skill I will take with me into the future.” 

After graduation, McGroarty plans to continue her studies in graduate school next fall. We asked her to share about her time here at ASU.  

Question: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

Answer: Getting involved and putting yourself out there can be extremely rewarding. 

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU because of my major and how interdisciplinary the university is. I was always amazed by how much this large university had to offer, yet it still had this smaller community within Barrett and the School of Earth and Space Exploration.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Take breaks and remember to take care of yourself. 

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: Outside of the Hayden Library, the northside sub-patio courtyard (the area to the right with the underground Hayden library entrance to the west and Life Sciences Building E Wing to the east). This area was always excellent, as it was shaded and provided relief from the Arizona heat, and it is a relatively quiet place for being in the middle of campus.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: After graduating a semester early, I plan to head back to the East Coast for a bit. I am hoping to attend graduate school next fall.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: This is a tricky question to answer, and there are unlimited possibilities for what one could do with that kind of money. My first thought would be to give money to community programs, whatever that may be if it is for homelessness, nutritional food programs, etc. — maybe a lot of change could come from a more local level.

Media Relations and Marketing Manager, School of Earth and Space Exploration


Passion for science led to degree for ASU grad

December 9, 2021

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2021 graduates.

A passion for science and an interest in procedural crime shows on television led Aubrey Kreutzer to pursue a science major at Arizona State University. Photo of Aubrey Kreutzer Download Full Image

Kreutzer will graduate Dec. 13 with a bachelor’s degree in forensic science from the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences and honors from Barrett, The Honors College.

“I have always been fascinated by science, and one day I started watching a crime show my mom was watching. I was drawn to a few other crime shows, and when I learned about what I could do in the field of forensic science with my passion for science, I was intrigued, and I decided this is what I wanted to study,” said Kreutzer, whose hometown is Prescott, Arizona.

After graduation, she will immediately begin work as a laboratory assistant at Exact Sciences, a company specializing in early cancer detection, in downtown Phoenix.

“I hope to grow with this company, and I am excited to see where it takes me,” she said.

In addition to her studies, Kreutzer kept busy as a member of the Honors Devils, a student group that welcomes prospective honors students to campus, and as a student recruiting assistant for Barrett Honors College at the ASU West campus.

We asked her to look back on her undergraduate experience.

Question: What is an interesting moment or accomplishment in your ASU career? What are you proud of?

Answer: An interesting moment in my ASU career was sort of a bittersweet full circle moment I had when I was part of a club called Honors Devils. While participating in an overnight experience at ASU West my senior year of high school, I stayed in the room of a Barrett student named Abbie, who was in Honors Devils at the time. When I came to ASU West my freshman year, I decided to join the club. The next spring, I was able to host a prospective student named Sydnee for an overnight experience in my dorm. When she came to ASU as a freshman that August, she went on to join Honors Devils as well.

By that time, I was a sophomore and had moved up to being vice president of the club. Two years later, I started my senior year and became president of Honors Devils, and Sydnee became the vice president of public relations. Later that year, when I was getting ready to leave Honors Devils, she was elected to take my place as president. It was bittersweet to have followed in Abbie’s footsteps to start my journey with Honors Devils, and then to watch Sydnee grow, follow in my footsteps and take over for me when I left.

I am proud of finishing my degree, and in a way much deeper than I ever anticipated. After the pandemic escalated in March 2020 and we isolated for months, I became extremely depressed. I was living alone and I was working remotely, barely interacting with friends or leaving the house. As an extrovert, this wrecked me. I have always been a committed student, but as the end of the fall 2020 semester approached, I was failing one of my classes and I could not bring myself to care about it. That’s when I knew I wasn’t OK.

About three weeks before the end of the semester, I decided to confide in a few people close to me who hadn’t known what I was going through. After that, I began talking to my thesis director and academic adviser about how to move forward, and I even considered withdrawing the entire semester and finishing my degree later. I had to retake my failed class over this summer and still had to work through a lot of hurdles in my mental health to finish my degree. But it is one year later, and I am still here. It was difficult, but I did it. I finished my thesis. I will graduate.

I will begin a new position downtown. I am incredibly grateful to have made it to where I am today, despite what the last year and a half has brought.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: While at ASU, I worked as a student recruiter for Barrett. I learned a lot during that time, and something which changed my perspective was seeing the support my supervisor provided to each and every student regardless of their college decision. No matter if they chose to go to ASU, she put her full effort into making sure that student was prepared and had all the resources they needed. It taught me that everyone deserves to pursue their dreams, and we must let them explore where to do so and support them in any way we can.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU for a few reasons. I was originally looking at schools in California, but I couldn’t afford to go there. I toured the three major Arizona universities and Grand Canyon University, but I was intrigued by ASU from the beginning. ASU West always felt like home, and I was consistently impressed by all that ASU had to offer. I loved that I could live at the beautiful West campus and still have access to all other campuses and participate in universitywide events.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: My toxicology professor and thesis director, Dr. Shirly Montero, taught me the importance of taking a break and validating your own mental health. She was a huge support for me during my mental health struggles and overcoming those in writing my thesis. She never questioned me. She was real with me. She saw what I was going through and she helped me find ways to focus and work through it.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Get involved. Try new things. But never lose yourself. Never stop prioritizing yourself. Get to know who you are and how you function. Learn how to fuel and refresh yourself and take time to do that. Your mental health is more important than what you accomplish.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: My favorite spot on the ASU West campus was the Sands Courtyard, with the Barrett Suite coming in close behind it. The Sands Courtyard was usually lined with flowers and a fountain in the middle, making it one of the most peaceful spots on campus. It was a great place to work on homework when it wasn’t too hot outside, and I loved to listen to the water of the fountain. The Barrett Suite comes in close second since many of the friends I made in Barrett hung out there, and I could always go there to study or see a familiar face.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: If I had $40 million to only solve one problem, it would be the problem of basic living necessities, including homelessness and people in foreign and third-world countries who do not have enough to eat. There are millions of people in this country and in the world who do not have enough to eat or drink or have a safe place to sleep. Everyone deserves to go to sleep with a full belly and a warm bed.

Nicole Greason

Director of Marketing and Public Relations , Barrett, The Honors College